England to provide the ultimate final test for the Black Ferns

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New Zealand assistant coach Wes Clarke said the challenges for New Zealand were to break down the confidence England had developed over a campaign that saw them play nearly twice as many games as the defending world champions since the last World Cup in 2017.

"They've got a group that's played together for a long time. That's going to be their strength.

"They've got a system that works for them, a game plan that's strong and they're not, probably, going to change that because it's so effective and so hard to beat."

And making it more of a challenge is that the Black Ferns will have to do it without bullocking No8 Liana Mikaele-Tu'u, who suffered a thumb injury during their semifinal win over France.

"She's gutted. She's been a big part of our team so far. She's a special human," Clarke said.

However, cover is at hand in the shape of co-captain Kennedy Simon, whose return from injury saw her make contributions from the bench during the playoff wins against Wales and France.

New Zealand would be looking to continue on their pre-determined path.


"If we start doing things too differently, or look too stressed, they are going to pick up on that, so it's important for us to show we've got confidence, we can have a crack at this. Stay calm and do things very similar to how we've done them in the last few weeks.

"It's going to be a challenge, we know that, but we've faced a few challenges in the last 12 months. We've got a special group of people here, and when you've got a special group of people anything's possible. We've got a chance."

Clarke said while people might see varying degrees of pressure from the outside, the pressure they felt was internal because of the way they wanted to play and showcase their game. If they did that well enough, the score would take care of itself.

Having been with the side through their disappointing northern tour last year and through the scrutiny that followed, Clarke said the greatest change he had seen in the side was the ability to handle pressure on the field.

They demonstrated that in their first game against Wales and in Saturday's semifinal with France.

"Their ability to block out noise and do what they have to do is getting better and better all the time."

The Rugby World Cup final at Eden Park on Saturday 12 November is sold out. Fans can watch live on Three New Zealand or Spark Sport from 7pm.


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